New Orleans Food Tour: GW Fins

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

My first venture into a seafood restaurant was phenomenal

I don’t think I’d ever been to a seafood restaurant. I like white fish well enough, but I’m not a fun of any of crustaceans, red fish or any other sea creatures. Mike, as most people, loves seafood, but as most regular restaurants also serve seafood, he doesn’t usually feel deprived. So it was somewhat surprising, even to myself, that I decided to make a reservation at GW Fins for one of our only three dinners in New Orleans. My thought was that New Orleans is such a seafood city, that I couldn’t go to the city and not have fish at least once. And if I was going to have fish, I might as well have it in a restaurant that specializes in it.

GW Finn was highly recommended as one of the best restaurants in New Orleans in a number of publications and reddit posts, plus it was located only a few blocks from our hotel. I did read a comment that there was nothing particularly New Orleans about this restaurant – seafood restaurants of this sort exist in many major American cities -, but I figured not all of our meals in New Orleans needed to feature Creole food. In all, I’m very glad we went, as we (or really, I) had an amazing meal.

We had celebrated our thirty-first anniversary early during our February trip to New York City, but we had skipped going out to dinner on the actual date in favor of celebrating it once more in New Orleans. GW Fins welcomed us with a table decorated with sparkles and a ribbon-wrapped menu to take home. I thought it was a beautiful detail.

GW’s menu changes somewhat depending on what is available at the fish market that day, though not all of the seafood is local. Our waiter was very helpful in indicating what was. In addition to seafood, the menu includes entrees with chicken, pork and beef. Vegetarians, however, are out of luck unless they want to eat salad and sides.

I started my meal with a Poached Pear Salad (baby arugula, Danish blue cheese, candied walnuts, red grapes, balsamic reduction – $13). Seldom have I had a more perfectly balanced and well dressed salad. It was just delicious. The only minus were the poached pears themselves, which had been poached with cinnamon and other apple pie spices. This gave them a discordant note with the rest of the salad, though they were good in themselves. I think this salad would be much better with pears poached in plain water. But still, minus the pears, it was perfect.

Mike had the Lobster Bisque (Maine lobster, cognac crème fraîche – $14). They bring you a soup plate with large chunks of lobster and then they pour the bisque on top of it. Mike was wild about just how good it was – both the lobster itself and the creamy bisque. It might have been the best lobster bisque he’s had. I think I’ll try to recreate it for him when I go back to cooking.

I had a very hard time deciding on what actual fish dish I was going to get. The menu had a number of interesting, and even scary choices. Finally, I went with the wood grilled Golden Tilefish (sweet potato hash, chipotle butter, crisp plantains, pineapple basil glaze – $38) and it was phenomenal. Much to Mike’s chagrin, I couldn’t stop raving about it as I was eating it. First, the wood grilling of the fish was genius. It gave it a smoky flavor that contrasted very well with the sweetness of the sauce. And then, the combination of flavors and textures was just on point. Whoever is in the kitchen devising dishes like this deserves a raise. Flavors were both novel and balanced.

The tilefish itself had a mild flavor, so it was perfect to go along with all the other ones. The portion was substantial – so much so, that I was too full for dessert afterwards.

Mike, unfortunately, was much less lucky with his choice. He had loved the redfish we’d had at Brigtsen’s the night before, so he decided on the cast iron blackened Wild Redfish (fried shrimp, mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, chili hollandaise, corn butter – $37). The main problem was the rub on the fish. It was a generic Creole rub, that made the fish taste just of that. It wasn’t as much bad, as lazy and unimaginative. If you are going to use a Creole rub, it should be better than what I can put together in my home kitchen. That said, Mike really liked the fish. He felt it was perfectly cooked, and liked how the redfish was meatier and less flaky than other white fish such as cod. He also liked the shrimp – though he generally dislikes having to remove heads and tails himself, and loved the shrimpy sauce. I liked it too, it had plenty of umami flavor.

GW Finn also needs to be noted for their biscuits and butter. The warm biscuits were incredible, they came apart by just looking at them, but they were very tasty.

Service was very good as well – out waiter went patiently over the menu, told us what fish were local and was very attentive. He made us feel quite special and welcomed. We did notice that most of the customers were white, while most of the service staff were people of color. This did make us feel mildly uncomfortable, though I’m not sure what the restaurant could do about it.

GW Fins
808 Bienville St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 581-3467
Su-Th: 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm
F-Sa: 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

New Orleans Food Tour

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